I hope and pray that all is well with you today. I said a little hallelujah this morning when my girls got on the bus. I don't know about you, but I was more than ready for life to settle back into its normal, everyday routine.
That said, today I was tested in my renewed commitment to the spiritual disciplines, because even though I was 100 percent ready for a return to routine, I was definitely NOT ready for my clock to go off at 5:30 this morning. But when it went off, I got the girls up and ready for school, packed lunches while coffee brewed, and waved good-bye from the porch. As the front door closed behind me, I was sorely tempted to crawl back under the covers. Instead, I came into the office with my coffee and somehow managed to convince myself that staying awake was worth it.
And it was. So very worth it. But sometimes, that's really hard to remember. The devil knows me, and my love of sleep, well. That's why making spiritual disciplines part of your everyday routine is so important. Like brushing your teeth and making the bed and fixing breakfast, if you do it consistently enough for long enough, it becomes second nature.
That's the goal, anyway. To take the individual threads of prayer, Bible study, and church, and intricately weave them into the fabric of your everyday life so God can use them as a means of grace. In this way, he supplies us with anything and everything we could possibly need as we cultivate faithfulness one day at a time.
Abide with Jesus Every Day
Put simply, spiritual disciplines are things that we do to abide with Jesus. They're avenues for us to draw near to the Lord. They include things like prayer, meditation, Bible study, fasting, journaling, worship, and memorizing scripture, among many, many other things. We’ll talk more about the specifics in the coming weeks—and where they fit into your very busy lives—but for now I’m going to give a brief overview and one specific example.
There are lots of lists of spiritual disciplines out there. And to be honest, they can be really overwhelming. The model that I’ve found most helpful is from David Mathis’ book Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. He divides all the different practices into three broad categories:
- Hearing God’s Voice. Abide in the Word. The Bible should be our primary source for hearing God’s voice. We read it, memorize it, study it, and meditate on it. But God also speaks to us through secondary sources like biblical preaching and Christian books. We always test secondary sources against the truth of Scripture, our primary source. Psalm 119:15-16
- Having God’s Ear. Abide in Prayer. Prayer is our response to God speaking to us through the Word. It’s simply amazing that he, the creator of the universe, wants to hear from us and bends low to hear us speak. When we pray, we, lowly human beings that we are, have the ear of God himself. What an astonishing truth! Matthew 6:9-13
- Belonging to God’s Body. Abide in the Church. Participating in the local church is one of the primary ways that we practice spiritual disciplines. This includes regular church attendance, worshiping together, taking the Lord’s Supper, serving alongside one another, and doing life together. Hebrews 10:24-25, Hebrews 3:12-13
Establish a Quiet Time Routine that Works for You
One of the best ways you can practice abiding in Jesus day in and day out is by setting aside a specific time every day as a “Quiet Time” to read scripture, pray, reflect, and worship. There are many, many different ways to do this. Mine has changed over time. What I do now doesn’t look the same as it did when I was younger, and that’s a good thing. My quiet time has changed just as I have over the years. Yours will too. Before you begin, though, you need to get a couple of preliminary things settled.
Choose a time and a place. For me, in this stage of life, this works best in the mornings right after my kids get on the bus. As we've already discussed, I’m not a morning person. At all. I’ve found that if I sit in the comfy chair in the den, I’m likely to fall asleep, so it’s better for me to sit at my desk in the office. It’s a little less comfortable, but staying awake is key. Mornings might not work for you. Maybe the best time for you to get into the Word is during your lunch break. Or maybe your days are crazy busy and the best time is right before bed. Do whatever works for you.
Make a plan and gather your materials. You have to know what you’re going to do before you actually sit down to have your quiet time. Otherwise you’ll just sit there looking at your Bible wondering where you should begin. Pick a book of the Bible and commit to read a chapter, or a section of a chapter, each day. If you start with a New Testament book, choose an Old Testament book next time. I also enjoy reading a Psalm each day. Since these are basically hymns of praise to God, they generally get my heart moving in the right direction.
I keep all my essentials in a neat stack on the corner of my desk. So every morning, when I walk into my office, coffee in hand, everything is ready to go. You may want to keep your materials beside your bed or in a pretty basket. Figure out what works for you and do it!
My Quiet Time Essentials
- Worship Music
- Devotional Book
- Colorful Pens/Pencils
- Theological Book
My Super Simple Quiet Time Routine
- Pray. I begin by bowing my head and whispering a quick prayer. I ask God to bless the time that I spend studying his word. For years now, I’ve prayed Psalm 25:4-5 every morning: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” 1-2 minutes
- Praise. I choose a worshipful song from my library to get my heart in the right place. Did I mention that I’m not a morning person? Music helps wake me up. 3-5 minutes
- Read from a devotional book. Oftentimes, I’m not ready to dive straight into Scripture. I need something else to wake my brain up and get me going. So I read the day’s entry in one of my favorite devotion books to get my mind in the right place. My favorites are New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp and Morning and Evening by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 5 minutes
- Read/Study Scripture. I like to read at least one chapter of the Bible a day. In the past, I've used yearly Bible reading plans, and I think everyone should do that every few years or so, but for now, a slower pace is better for me. My commitment is to read one chapter, but if I’m really into the story and have more time than usual, I’ll read two or three chapters. It just depends on the day. 10-20 minutes
- Journal. This looks different for me on different days, but it’s always present in one form or another. Some days, I use my Dwell Journal. Some days, I have more to say, so I use a different journal that I keep specifically for written prayers. And some days, I use my journaling Bible to take notes in the margin and record thoughts or insights that have been on my heart. 5-10 minutes
- Close in prayer. Sometimes this is tied into journaling, but I usually end my quiet times with another short prayer. I thank God for his Word, I ask for his blessing and guidance throughout the day, and I express gratitude and praise for all he has done. 1-2 minutes
- Read. I don’t do this every single day. But when I have time, I like to read books on Christian living or theology by Christian authors. I’ve found this to add a lot of richness, depth, and wisdom to my study. 15-30 minutes
And that's it. This morning, the whole routine took me about 40 minutes from start to finish, and it was worth every minute. I'd love to pretend that I never miss a day, but I do. More than I would like. When that happens, I try to give myself a little grace (but not too much). Instead of beating myself up about it, I just get back into it as soon as I can and pick up where I left off. God always honors the faithful efforts of his people, no matter how imperfect they may be.
Next week, we'll take a closer look at hearing God's voice through the Word. But for now, I want to know what your quiet time looks like. Let's talk about what works for you....and what doesn't....in the comments!
Until next time, grace and peace.
Linger Longer: Spiritual Disciplines for Everyday Life
January 8 // Linger Longer: One Day at a Time
January 15 // Linger Longer: Hear God's Voice (Word)
January 22 // Linger Longer: Have God's Ear (Prayer)
January 29 // Linger Longer: Belong to God's Body (Fellowship)